May 2, 2011
Full of Revelations, but Not Art History
The title might make this seem the DIY for re-enactors, but he only used medievalism as a stepping stone: his own designs are more Art Nouveau-ish. The book is suitable for anyone wanting to do unusual and refined work in metal and enamel. It covers shaping sheet metal (hollowing, o ye makers of helmets, who ought to be practicing first on bowls), joining metal, granulation, enamelling in cloisonne, grisaille, relief, and plique a jour, lustre, niello, foil impressions, glass gems, casting in metal, &c.
While I would not recommend this to the beginner of today, certainly the advanced beginner or intermediate should enjoy it. His writing style can be a bit involved when he's not doing how-to.
I found the description of what borax flux does to make soldering work a pleasant "A-ha!" moment. He is often down to basic basics like this because he doesn't have solder compounds and has to describe how to make your own. He also gives, for example, a really detailed description of how to hammer a rivet, down to what direction to aim the blows and why, or how to adapt the machine-made brass hinge so that it won't look so glaringly machine made on your work, or how to grind glass to powder for enamelling, a job today's suppliers spare us.
Altogether a fun read, that I'd love to start putting to work.
One problem, of course, with very old craft books is that they had easily available things your supplier will be baffled by, while not having many of our modern supplies. This is where you have to provide the improvisation, or in some cases hunt down a modern name.
There's also an assumption that the amateur craftsperson will be more at home with Bunsen burners and scary-sounding chemicals than many of us nowadays are. They assumed the work was being done by adults, wide-awake, dead sober, and paying attention to what they were doing. Remember that for your own safety when applying some of these techniques. Scattery brains should not get into some of this!